2016 Oscar Nominations: The Biggest Shocks, Snubs & Surprises

It’s the most wonderful time of year. The self-congratulatory industry awards known as the Oscars are here! Now comes the analysis, the kvetching and yes, in many corners of the Internet, including the always even-handed Film Twitter, the crying (though it’s just an awards ceremony, save your tears). And so let’s look at “snubs” and “surprises” with the understanding that these are relative and subjective terms.

We may not have been surprised by a particular nomination, and hell, might have even predicted it, but you have to consider the populace at large and other pundits who have their own unique point of view. The key though, like it is every year, is predicting with your mind and never your heart; that latter path almost always leads one astray (ourselves included). The idea is to divorce yourself emotionally from the process of what you want to win and what you think will win based on history and Academy taste (which is slowly changing for the better, but not as quickly or dramatically as some would have you believe).

As ever, no one predicted these awards 100% correctly, with the Academy pitching a few curveballs along with the expected easy hits. So below, we’ve run down the snubs (a word we hate, but few others serve the same purpose) and surprises from this year’s nominations — take a look, and let us know what you reckon of this year’s nominations in the comments.

Creed
"Creed"

Snubs

Creed
Ryan Coogler’s triumphant Rocky reboot, “Creed” is an interesting case in subjectivity. Not many “experts” thought the boxing drama was going to get nominated for anything other than Sylvester Stallone — which is exactly what happened and what we predicted — however, as a populist picture that struck a chord in a lot of critics and pundits, there was a small, but vocal component of film writers who believed “Creed” could take noms for Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director. It’s a worthwhile film to be sure, Coogler is a hell of a director and his DP Maryse Alberti is really deserving too, but the writing was on the wall for “Creed” Academy-support-wise long ago. It was rarely mentioned in any of the guilds and got little love elsewhere outside of audiences and critics.

Carol

Todd Haynes and “Carol”
Speaking of critics, the mistake the mainstream media and some Oscar pundits consistently make is paying too much attention to the “momentum” given by critics bodies and guilds and not enough attention towards how the Academy specifically and its members will receive a film. Todd Haynes’ “Carol” is gorgeous and we’re not surprised it received many acting and craft nominations, but we’ve always suspected the film was slightly too cold and cerebral for the Academy to register in Best Picture (with six, it's the film that's picked up the most nominations without getting a Best Picture nod since the field in the latter was expanded to ten in 2009). Thus, despite winning many big awards in places like the prestigious New York Film Critics Circle (which again, are not the same people who the Academy are) and doing well with BAFTA, who respond to the more restrained emotion you get here, Haynes was “snubbed” from Best Picture and the Best Directors field — granted, it was an extremely tough year and even perennials like Steven Spielberg and David O. Russell got bounced. Also, look to “Brooklyn,” a film somewhat similar to “Carol” in its exquisite craft and loveliness, but emotionally warmer, and thus grabbed a Best Picture nomination.

Black Mass
"Black Mass"

“Black Mass”
Granted, not many thought “Black Mass” was going to be a big winner, but it can be seen as a slight example of taste impairing judgement (something we’re all guilty of). Someone like well connected, often-on-the-money Oscar blogger Kris Tapley was a big “Black Mass” advocate all fall and basically beat the drum with the notion that the Academy had not forgotten about Johnny Depp, Scott Cooper or the craft of cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi. But Tapley also loved the movie, a sentiment not really shared by too many top critics. “Black Mass” did have an outside shot in a bunch of categories, and if we could ever be witness to the math, we’re sure you’d see “Black Mass” as a 6th or 7th choice in a few categories, including Best Actor, but close only counts with horseshoes and hand grenades and never in real life or for the Oscars.

Steve Jobs
"Steve Jobs"

Aaron Sorkin
Now one of the key and genuine shocks and surprises of the 2016 nominations is the snubbing of Aaron Sorkin. Everyone presumed his taut and rapid-fire “Steve Jobs” script was a shoo-in for Best Adapted Screenplay and many had credited the success and worthiness of the picture directly to his work. And while Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet were properly accredited for their tremendous work, Sorkin was mysteriously absent during the nominations (for an award many were predicting him to win), but it could have been because of the “liberties” with the facts that the writer took with Jobs’ story and the book by Walter Issacson. To be fair, Sorkin’s explained his intentions and approach quite convincingly and as many have noted, including A.O. Scott in his brilliant Steve Jobs review, art is not transcription of facts. Still, apparently that turned the Academy off. What other explanation could their be?

The Hateful Eight
"The Hateful Eight"

“The Hateful Eight”
Pray for Harvey Weinstein’s assistant and publicity team today. Not only did “Carol” fail to nab Best Picture, but “The Hateful Eight” got just three nominations, missing out on Best Picture, Best Director and, perhaps most shockingly, Best Original Screenplay, a category which Quentin Tarantino won last time at bat. After "Inglourious Basterds” and “Django Unchained” overperformed, it seemed like Tarantino was firmly in the Academy favorite’s club, but with reviews more mixed and the movie underwhelming at the box office, it seems like that’s not the case. How long do we give it before Tarantino starts dissing “Brooklyn” and “Room” as "women’s movies," or calls “Spotlight” an HBO drama? 

Bridge of Spies
Tom Hanks in "Bridge of Spies"

Steven Spielberg
In fairness, it was a very tough category this year, but we were a little surprised not to see Steven Spielberg nominated for “Bridge Of Spies.” The movie, while not the hippest on the block, has been a long-player across awards season, and picked up six nods in total, from Best Picture to an acting nod to below-the-line categories. And usually, when Spielberg has an Oscar movie in the mix, he gets a nomination — see “Lincoln,” “Munich,” “Saving Private Ryan.” It seems, then, that “Bridge Of Spies” was more “War Horse” or “Catch Me If You Can,” with the directors’ branch going with mostly fresher faces, and following the DGA’s lead by omitting Spielberg.

Ant-Man
“Ant-Man” and “Jurassic World” in visual effects
Since the visual effects category expanded to ten in 2010, we’ve had some kind of superhero (or toy) movie nominated every year. Last year, there were three, with “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Guardians Of The Galaxy,” “X-Men: Days Of Future Past.” This year? None, with neither “Avengers: Age Of Ultron” or “Ant-Man” (or “Fantastic Four,” obviously) picking up nods. It’s an actual shame in case of the latter: the film’s mix of CGI and macro photography was genuinely innovative and looked consistently gorgeous, even if the film itself wasn’t so great. Also missing from the line-up was “Jurassic World,” the year’s second-biggest movie, even though the first two films in the franchise were nominated.

Furious 7

The "Furious 7" Song
Let’s just agree first that the Best Original Song category is a giant heaping pile of bullshit with the occasional diamond in it. Once we’ve all made our peace with that, it’s still a little surprising that the theme to “Furious 7” didn’t make the cut. “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth, is not exactly “Over The Rainbow” when it comes to songwriting craft, admittedly, but it scored one of the year’s most tear-jerking movie moments, in its virtually-fourth-wall-breaking farewell to Paul Walker, and would have provided the live broadcast a memorable moment, especially if they let Vin Diesel sing. Instead, we’ve ended up with a pretty boring line-up, including Sam Smith’s dreadful Bond tune.

Listen To Me Marlon

“Listen To Me Marlon” and Michael Moore
Though there are always holes to pick, the Best Documentary category turned out better than we might have feared (namely, “The Look Of Silence” was nominated). But we’re legitimately surprised that the documentary branch passed over the terrific “Listen To Me Marlon,” which was one of the year’s best, and which paid tribute to a Hollywood legend. Then again, maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised: the category tends to lean towards issue movies, and we don’t recall another Hollywood doc being nominated since 1995’s “The Battle Over Citizen Kane.” Also missing from the category was Michael Moore’s latest, “Where To Invade Next,” which picked up his best reviews for a while.